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June 14, 2006

Republican olive branch on county elections?

Posted by David Postman at 5:22 PM

Tuesday's news that Dean Logan was resigning as King County elections chief brought calls to party, paeans to Logan, and reprimands for the "partisan extremists," "unscrupulous people" and "unhinged partisan critics" blamed for Logan's departure.

But lost among all that, at least in my in-box, was a call for a truce in King County's election wars. Michael Young, chairman of the King County Republican Party, issued a statement Tuesday night not only congratulating Logan and wishing him well — with sincerity I think — but said the county's problems can't all be laid at Logan's feet.

"Many of those problems in the Department of Records, Elections and Licensing existed before Dean Logan arrived, and remain today. But his departure offers the citizens of King County a unique opportunity to resolve the one issue that has divided us so bitterly. ...

"I call upon the leadership of the Democratic Party to work together with the KCGOP and all interested groups and citizens, to set aside our partisan differences and help HEAL our community by working in a bipartisan manner on these issues."

I just talked briefly with Young. He said Logan's departure "provides an opportunity for a fresh start" and thinks that at least some Republicans on the council agree and are ready to set aside some of the harsh rhetoric that has been heard for two years.

It is true that Logan's departure may take care of one big problem, or at least put it off, now that county-wide vote-by-mail looks unlikely by next year. That's got to help. And there may be Republicans on the council ready to move on. But the conservatives' No. 1 voice on the issue of elections clearly is not.

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State will appeal Eyman initiative case

Posted by David Postman at 4:18 PM

Attorney General Rob McKenna just announced he will appeal Tuesday's ruling by King County Superior Judge Mary Roberts that threw out Tim Eyman's Initiative 747.

In making his announcement, McKenna said the "ruling is disturbing in two ways." My quick, non-lawyerly read is that one of those is more compelling than the other.

McKenna's statement says the decision "overturns the will of the people." Well, that happens. And the state Supreme Court has upheld lower court decisions that invalidated initiatives. Even a lot of votes don't solve constitutional problems.

McKenna says the second reason is that Roberts "sets an impossible hurdle for those seeking to exercise their constitutional right to initiative." Roberts said the initiative was unconstitutional because it amended a property tax law that had been amended itself by an earlier Eyman initiative, I-722. But in the time between when I-747 was drafted and voters had their say, I-722 was ruled unconstitutional — see a pattern with Eyman's initiatives? — and that meant the new initiative was amending a law that no longer existed.

State attorneys argued before Roberts, and now will do the same at the Supreme Court, that it's impossible for initiative sponsors to be able to predict what would happen to underlying laws in the months that pass between drafting an initiative and the fall vote.

"Penalizing voters because the initiative drafters failed to predict whether or not I-722 would be upheld is bad public policy that severely damages the people's power of initiative," McKenna said.

And that doesn't just worry initiative writers. Legislative staff is worried, too, state assistant attorney general Jim Pharris told me this morning. He had already gotten calls from legislative staff worried about how Roberts' ruling might affect their work.

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HIgh court candidate says he's target of state "political ambush"

Posted by David Postman at 10:29 AM

The Times has a story this morning about Supreme Court candidate John Groen's fundraising rush right before new campaign donation limits went into effect.

Groen's campaign is using that new limit to try to scare up more donations, painting the conservative attorney as the target of a political attack. A fund raising letter dated June 1 from Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman, Jr., closes with this p.s.:

Just yesterday, the Public Disclosure Commission (who oversees campaign contributions and practices) passed an emergency rule aimed specifically to prohibit John Groen from using legal contributions raised so far! This appears to be nothing other than a political ambush. So, we desperately need your financial support. Please cut out the form below and return in the envelope provided as soon as you can.

The PDC did approve an emergency rule May 31. The law passed by the Legislature said campaigns covered by the new limits had to "spend" any money before June 7 that otherwise would be above the new campaign limits. The PDC had to decide what "spend" meant. The commission adopted a rule that said the money had to be used to buy goods or services that were used by the deadline. That meant a campaign could not buy TV time for October and say it was spent. It had to be used up by June 7.

Was it directed just at Groen? No, said PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson. When the PDC staff was preparing to notify candidates about the pending rule-making, in April, there were a number of candidates who appeared like they would be over the limit, but Groen was not one of them, she said. The new limits govern court races and county offices.

But direct mail often works best with some fear factor thrown in. And conservative candidates for the court this year are clearly trying to run against the establishment. Judicial candidates aren't allowed to say much about their political leanings and positions on specific political issues, but certainly there are messages for voters in portraying the candidate as the target of a "political ambush" by state regulators.

Groen's campaign did amp up spending before the deadline and likely got rid of anything that would have been above the limit, said campaign manager Laurel Christiansen:

"It was just exciting. ... especially for a woman that loves to shop."

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Cantwell calls for Haditha investigation

Posted by David Postman at 8:14 AM

During debate this morning on an emergency supplemental bill with money for Iraq and Afghanistan, Sen. Maria Cantwell called for a congressional investigation of the killings in Haditha:

"The United State must make sure it does not ever condone indiscriminate, deliberate, killings of civilians."

She said soldiers accused of wrongdoing should be subject to the military justice system:

"But I think we should also play our oversight role here in Congress and make sure that Congress is not leaving the investigation of this issue simply up to the Department of Defense. We need to make sure that Congress is also investigating this issue and giving the accountability and oversight that everyone deserves."

Cantwell also called on President Bush to appoint a special envoy to Iraq, suggesting Bill Clinton or the president's father for the job.

Cantwell's stance on the war has put her at odds with anti-war Democratic activists. The speech this morning didn't include any dramatic turns for Cantwell. But she continued to stress what she has said about 2006 needing to be a year of transition and talked tough about holding the Administration accountable, including the Department of Defense's goal of training and equipping 325,000 Iraqi troops by the end of the year.

"I want to make sure that Congress in our budget process holds them accountable to meeting those goals. This is for the sake of the troops that are on the ground and for our own security; to make sure that the Iraqi government knows that we want the security responsibilities transitioned to them. And we must make it clear that the United States will not stay in Iraq indefinitely.

"I take Prime Minister Maliki at his word. He basically has said that the Iraqi forces could take complete control of security within the next 18 months and that the new government could deal with the militias and that the security forces would take control as quickly as possible. I think we need to continue to push that issue and make sure that we are meeting the milestones that will help that event occur as soon as possible."

UPDATE: Here's the transcript of Cantwell's comments.

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